With all due respect to the Los Angeles Clippers, Lob City resided in Columbus on Wednesday night.
It was there that the No. 3/5 Ohio State men’s basketball team (7-0) put on an offensive clinic -- both through the air and from the field -- en route to a 76-60 win over Maryland. Playing in their last ACC-Big Ten Challenge before swapping sides and joining the Big Ten next season, the Terrapins got an up close and person look at their future conference, which was highlighted by no fewer than four alley-oop dunks from Buckeyes forward Sam Thompson.
“They had so many guys crash that we felt like we could really exploit them in transition if we were able to grab clean rebounds,” said Thompson, who finished with 14 points on 6-of-9 shooting against Maryland. “We were just able to get some easy buckets in transition.”
In fact, it was 25 points that Ohio State was able to convert off of turnovers, adding another 12 on fast breaks. The Buckeyes were paced by junior forward LaQuinton Ross, who continued to show signs that he’s breaking out of an early season slump with a 20-point, six-rebound performance against the Terrapins.
Ross came out and hit his first three-point attempts of the game, as Ohio State jumped out to a 24-12 lead. The Mississippi native’s strong effort followed a 17-point outing against North Florida last Friday, which came after Ross only converted on 23 percent of his shots in the Buckeyes’ first five games.
“He’s slowed things down in his mind,” OSU head coach Thad Matta said of Ross. “He makes us a better basketball team because there’s another guy out there that can stretch the defense.”
By the end of the first half, the Terrapins had shrunk Ohio State’s lead to seven, but the Buckeyes took a 43-26 lead into halftime after Aaron Craft picked the pocket of Maryland guard Dez Wells with four seconds remaining and found Thompson in transition for a spinning layup as the buzzer sounded.
“It started with Aaron,” Matta said of the play. “For him to get down the floor and flick it up like that, it was just a tremendous play.”
In the second half, Ohio State kept its foot on the pedal, extending its lead to as many as 25 points. It was there that Thompson finished two of his alley-oops, something that Matta said wasn’t necessarily pre-planned heading into the game.
“For the most part, they just sort of developed,” Matta said. “He’s so athletic and the guys do a good job of finding him.”
Thompson’s easy baskets served as a microcosm for Ohio State’s evening, as the Buckeyes put together an impressive 52.1 percent performance from the field against the Terrapins. For the second consecutive game, Ohio State managed to make more than half of its shots, a sign that it’s capable of playing offense that can match its second-ranked defense.
Matta credited an extra emphasis placed on shooting in practice for his team’s success from the field on Wednesday.
“We’ve done a lot of it,” Matta said. “Really, talking about the shooting and the shot preparation and as elementary as it sounds, the hand placement on the ball. Feet set, equal push, all those things. I felt like the last couple of weeks, our percentages in practice have been very, very high. To carry it over into the last couple of games is good.”
Joining Ross and Thompson in double-figures for the Buckeyes was Craft, who finished with 10 points, six assists, and five steals, and Lenzelle Smith Jr., who scored 12 points on 4-of-6 shooting. Maryland was paced by Wells, who tallied 19 points, and Michigan transfer Evan Smotrycz, who scored 15 points in his return to the Schottenstein Center.
With its seventh win in as many games this season, the Buckeyes will now turn their attention toward Central Connecticut, who will come to Columbus for a 4:30 p.m. tip on Saturday.